STRAUSS: Don Quixote, Op. 35. Don Juan, Op. 20.
Antonio Janigro, cellist; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 04604 TT: 59:42
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FALLA: El Amor Brujo. Suite from The Three-Cornered Hat. Excerpts from La Vida Breve. ALBÉNIZ: Triana. Festival Day in Seville. Navarra. GRANADOS: Intermezzo from Goyescas.
Leontyne Price, soprano; Chicago Symphony Orch/Fritz Reiner, cond.
RCA SACD 04607 TT: 71:05
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SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished." Symphony No. 9 in C "The Great."
Boston Symphony Orch/Charles Munch, cond.
RCA SACD 04603 TT: 68:45
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BACH: Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043. MOZART: Sinfonia concertante in E flat, K. 364. BRAHMS: Concerto in A minor for Violin and Cello, Op. 102.
Jascha Heifetz, violin; Erick Friedman, violin (Bach); William Primrose, viola (Mozart); Gregor Piatogorsky, cello (Brahms); New Symphony Orchestra of London/Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. (Bach); RCA Victor Symphony Orch/Izler Solomon, cond. (Mozart); Alfred Wallenstein, cond. (Brahms)
RCA SACD 04605 TT: 70:53
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VILLA-LOBOS: Choros No. 1. Etude in E minor. Prelude in E minor. TORROBA: Madronos. TURINA: Homenage a Tárrega, Op. 69 (excerpts). Fandanguillo. ALBÉNIZ: Suite espanola, Op. 47 (excerpts). FALLA: Homenage "Le tombeau de Claude Debussy." TRAD: Canciones populares catalanas: El testament d'Amelia.
Julian Bream, guitar
RCA SACD 04606 TT: 42:27
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Here are five more treasures SACDs from RCA in their Living Stereo series, all at mid-price. The remasterings are magnificent—these famous recordings sound better than ever. When original recordings were three-track, that is what is heard on these reissues; when they were two-track, one hears only the left and right channels—however in either case we have the advantage of SACD processing with its wider dynamic range and more accurate reproduction of what was on original tapes.

Reiner's Strauss is justly famous. This 1959 recording of Don Quixote is one of the finest ever made of the work, and in glorious three-track sound. Although CD notes state this Don Juan is the 1954 recording, not Reiner's CSO 1960 remake, I've been advised by Mark Obert-Thorn that this actually is the later remake as RCA didn't begin using three-track masters until 1956. M O-T did a detailed comparison that revealed the earlier DJ is about 30 seconds faster and there are audible differences in performance and miking. This is the conductor's second recording of El Amor Brujo; the first was made February 5, 1940 in Pittsburgh with American soprano Carol Brice, issued three years ago in EMI's Great Conductors of the 20th Century series (62866, now deleted). The Leontyne Price recording was made in 1963, one of Reiner's last recordings. Brice is quite superior to Price in this music, and it is odd that Price was recorded rather distantly—even in three tracks, she sounds as if she is in back of the orchestra. The other Spanish works are showpieces for Reiner and his orchestra.

Charles Munch's conducting was never dull, evidenced by this dynamic performance of Schubert's Symphony No. 9. The three-track recording presents the BSO with uncommon presence and tonal beauty, with the Unfinished as a bonus. Although the Bach double concerto on the Jascha Heifetz disk was recorded in 1961, it is two-track, while the other earlier recordings (1956 & 1961) have three. In all cases, sonic quality is excellent, and we have the opportunity to hear the master violinist collaborating with two fellow giants, violist William Primrose and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, as well as his student, Erick Friedman.

Collectors will welcome the superb disk of performances by master guitarist/lutenist Julian Bream who in 1997 celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his debut. All of this music is closely identified with Bream, including a virtuoso performance of Asturias, as well as three works by Villa-Lobos, whose widow in 1976 presented Bream with the composer's Gold Medal. This SACD contains what was on the original LP issue, so we have short playing time—it's surprising RCA didn't include some of Bream's other recordings to fill out the disk. Wonderful sound!

R.E.B. (April 2007)